HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It didn't take long for Gov. Neil Abercrombie to start spending money. An hour and a half after taking the oath of office Gov. Abercrombie held his first news conference announcing he was releasing the funds to go to education and social service programs.
Gov. Abercrombie said Gov. Lingle reached a deal to end furlough Friday's at schools but says it went into limbo. Now he's brought it back to reality.
His first order of business was to release the money for education that had already been agreed upon by the state legislature, the unions and the Department of Education, and Governor Lingle last May.
"I was not in the governor's chair at that time. I am now and as I look at the solution they brought forward I have to honor that and I do without any reservation," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
The difference is Gov. Lingle planned to release $57 million and take out a $10 million loan from local banks to cover the rest. Gov. Abercrombie says he will release the full $67 million from the Hurricane Relief Fund and he'll release it immediately.
"The Lingle administration had said that in the third quarter they would release the money which puts us in a difficult position because we're really borrowing from other programs and we may not have the funding available to continue," said Kathryn Matayoshi, Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent.
So why not continue on that way, especially since kids are technically already back in the classroom the full year?
"Because we pay our bills," said Gov. Abercrombie. "With restoring teacher furlough days I think that is a morale booster, and when people have high morale people work harder so we're on our way with that."
"Today having it be released the Department of Education can plan much better for the next biennium," said Rep. Calvin Say, (D) Speaker of the House.
The money released today does not restore the six furlough days on non-instructional days teachers agreed to give up during negotiations.
The release of the money was welcome news to the group Save Our Schools which included parents who camped out in the governors lobby trying to help leverage a deal for education.
"Yes it is very nice not to have to be thinking about camping out for the next nine months," said Jill Tao, parent.
And making good on another promise Gov. Abercrombie also released $23.7 million from the rainy day fund to help social services like mental health services, domestic violence shelters and child care subsidies.
Gov. Abercrombie says there will still be $117 million left in the Hurricane Relief Fund after the money for education is taken out.
As for the rainy day fund, the governor said there will still be about $38 million left after taking out the $23.7 million for the community programs.
Those community programs include:
- $1.5 million to Healthy Start program
- $3 million for Kupuna Care program
- $2 million for QUEST health care payments to restore adult dental care
- $1.5 million for development disabilities Medicaid waiver program
- $1.5 million for mental health services
- $1.4 million for substance abuse treatment
- $1 million for homeless service housing pilot program
- $332,000 for Waianae District Comprehensive Health and Hospital
- $800,000 for child care subsidies
- $762,500 for domestic violence shelters
- $600,000 for HMSA for Keiki Care
- $550,000 for Hawaii immigrant health initiative program
- $500,000 for meals for the elderly for Kupuna Care
- $500,000 for Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services
- $300,000 for Families for R.E.A.L. program